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The Boston Celtics had one of the best years in franchise history during the 1985-86 season. Led by their Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, the Celtics won 67 games and lost once at home, playoffs included.

Dennis Johnson was the fourth future Hall of Famer in the starting lineup, and Boston cruised to the best record in the NBA with the star-studded squad. Although Bird claimed his third straight MVP that year, he knew where to turn if his team needed a basket.

The 1985-86 Boston Celtics rank right up there with the best NBA teams ever

While Larry Bird got plenty of well-deserved credit for the success of the 1985-86 Boston Celtics, he also had plenty of help. After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1985 NBA Finals, Red Auerbach and the front office went to work.

The Celtics traded veteran forward Cedric Maxwell to the Los Angeles Clippers for the oft-injured Bill Walton. The move was risky, but it certainly paid off.

Walton missed three full seasons with foot injuries, but his role in Boston was a far cry from what it had been. The Celtics needed Walton to come off the bench and spell McHale and Parish. He played his role to perfection. Walton averaged just over 19 minutes per game and put up 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. In his new role, he played 80 games, the most ever in his 10-year NBA career. He was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

The Celtics also signed guard Jerry Sichting. Sichting provided instant scoring off the bench and gave both Johnson and Danny Ainge a breather.

The Celtics dropped their first game of the season but then won 17 of the next 18 games. They finished 67-15, and no Eastern Conference team finished with more than 57 wins. Boston went 15-3 in the postseason and knocked off the Houston Rockets in six games in the NBA Finals.

Bird knew where to turn if the Celtics needed offense


Dennis Johnson Got His Money and Then Got His Wish With the Boston Celtics in 1986

Maxwell’s departure opened the door for McHale. McHale spent much of his time coming off the bench, playing behind Bird, Parish, and Maxwell. With Max gone, McHale became a full-time starter.

He didn’t disappoint.

The 6-foot-10 forward averaged more than 20 points per game for the first time in his career. He made his second All-Star game and the first of six straight appearances. He also made Bird’s life much easier.

“The big story that year was Kevin McHale,” Bird wrote in his book, Drive: The Story of My Life. “He peaked in the first three or four months of the season. He was absolutely unstoppable. No one in the league could stop him, and Kevin knew it.

“We were all having a blast with it. We’d just go to Kevin and never worry about it. Anytime we needed two points, we just went to Kevin. He was scoring around 30 every night, just doing whatever he wanted. I really thought at the time he had a great shot at winning the MVP Award.

“Guarding Kevin at that time was a lost cause. If you could get the ball to him in his spot down on the blocks, no one could do anything about it.”

Only a foot injury could stop him.

“Things were going great for him until one night in a game against Phoenix when Larry Nance accidentally stepped on his foot,” Bird wrote. “Kevin tried to pull it out from underneath Nance’s, and he broke the bone. Things were never quite the same for Kevin after that.”